If an NPC has been turned undead and later destroyed/resurrected, do they retain the memory of being undead? Specifically the actions they took part in against the PCs? But also any details to the villain's plans, or other incidental info they may have learned while undead?

For reference purposes, they were an intelligent undead, but under the control of their creator.


3 Answers 3


I have never seen anything official, but if I were a DM in that situation I would say it would depend on the type of undead. Something like a vampire or other form of sentient undead would probably retain full memories. If they spent time as something that was non-sentient or barely-sentient like a skeleton then I would say they would probably have only limited sketchy memories, if any at all.

Though as Jacob suggested, let the drama and story lead on something like that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Regular skeletons and zombies don't contain "anyone" at all—they're just animated bodies that have no connection to the soul that used to reside there. They're more like golems than people. The animated/turned distinction is probably a good starting point, then degree of intelligence (because a vampire lord is going to remember more than a ghoul). I'd special-case ghosts too, depending on setting—are they lost souls, or psychic echoes? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2013 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie If skeletons and zombies work that way, why doesn't raise dead work on skeletons and zombies? Or are you considering turned into an undead different from animating the dead? \$\endgroup\$ May 2, 2014 at 7:57

I'm sure I'll be corrected if someone can find an official source, but I don't think this is defined anywhere rules-wise. My initial reaction is that there'd be memories, but they are probably incomplete. As a DM, I'd probably look for what'd make the best story based on what happened and what I'm working on for my PC storyline. If I had to punt on a specific memory, I'd probably go with a Wis check to see if any given specific detail survived.

An interesting corollary is how they feel about their actions while undead—particularly if their alignment was radically different. There's some good drama likely buried in there (and maybe a little comedy if you look for it). Even knowing that you had no control and were under the command of another is bound to bring some feelings of guilt (if only because the memories would still be first-person).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I really like the social interaction bit you mentioned. Infact I'm hoping it (feeling of regret) goes both ways since the reason he's undead in the first place is Im hoping to have him fall in battle helping the PCs and then forcing them to retreat, abaondoning him there...so the only reason he's undead in the first place is the PCs left him! (Insert DM evil laugh here) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben-Jamin
    Feb 3, 2013 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, there's lots of drama potential there, I think. :) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 4, 2013 at 17:32

Probably Yes, a Now-not-undead Creature Retains Memories of Its Time as an Undead

What almost covers this situation is in Complete Divine in the chapter The Divine World in the section What Happens after You Die under the heading The Moment of Death:

The dead character doesn’t perceive anything at all, doesn’t think, and has no notion or memory of events beyond the moment of death. The soul is beyond magic’s power to detect or affect. It’s not incorporeal, it’s not a ghost, and it is not a creature of any kind with measurable statistics. (125)

Under the heading Making the Passage there's also this :

Some undead such as vampires and wights create spawn out of a character they kill, trapping the soul of the deceased in a body animated by negative energy and controlled by a malign intelligence. Sometimes the undead creature can access the memories of the deceased (vampires, spectres, ghouls, and ghasts can), and sometimes they can’t (as with shadows, wights, and wraiths). (126)

Emphasis mine. Officially, then, the malign undead intelligence operates the creature's body while the creature's an undead, and the negative energy traps the soul. The soul's presence should allow for perception, thinking, and memory, despite being unable to actually do anything, but this is pretty much the extent of Complete Divine's information on becoming an undead, leaving it open to other interpretations.


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